Southbourne Tax Group Review: How to make sure your personal finance is on the right track

Being on track with your finances can bring a feeling of satisfaction and content. But this is not possible without any hard work and discipline. Each of us desires a stable financial situation but sometimes things don’t fall into their rightful place, thus problems arise. One can’t avoid financial problems, how you face them is the real issue. You should be able to bring back your personal finance on the right track after some financial problems.

First, you must learn. You need to have a good knowledge about personal finance to know which way to go on your finances. Don’t fall into a huge debt and take your financial situation on the right track with the following simple tips provided by the The Southbourne Group with the help of a few financial experts as well.

Develop a better understanding today

If you are one of those young readers, you should begin working out your personal finance today. Learn its basics and consider opening a savings account. Grow it, build it, save it! Your future’s financial condition will surely be secured by growing your savings. You can also make smarter financial decisions later in your life if you learn to save early.

The Southbourne Group also wants those parents reading this to teach their children on how to make proper financial decisions with regards to their own money. This way, they would be more careful about spending their money, making them smarter in creating financial decisions than others.

Know what’s in your paycheck

With a little knowledge about your paycheck, you might be surprised with some disappeared amounts even though you didn’t spend them. Notice important details on your paycheck and understand each of them such as your national insurance contributions, pension contribution, student loan payments and tax code.

Basic needs should be your priority

Just take a look at this quote: “If you buy things you do not need soon you will have to sell things you need.” Take a deep breath and think twice before buying other expensive things that will make you forget about your basic needs. Make sure that you’ll always pay your house rent, bills, foods and tax first before anything else.

Make a good financial record

Make one if you still don’t have any financial record. But if you currently have one then see to it that you update it with details organized properly to guarantee the balance between your income and spending. Doing this could also ensure that you’re still within your set budget.

Grow a savings account

As mentioned earlier, building a savings account can greatly help your financial future, thus the company of Southbourne Tax Group inspires each reader to save their own money, especially the young ones. Grab the best deals available where you can also depend on comparison sites in finding them.

Plan your goal

Defining a financial goal will inspire you to do your best in building your savings. Don’t give up on your goal and always find a way to keep your personal finance on track.

Always apply the appropriate knowledge and attitude to make sure your personal finance is on the right track. How you take care of personal finance today will define your future financial situation. Southbourne Tax Group provides those mentioned above with the hope of helping you in your finances.

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The Southbourne Tax Group: Stopping tax identity theft – Practical advice for CPAs and clients

Tax return and other tax-related identity theft is a growing problem that CPAs can help their clients with—both in taking preventive actions and in correcting problems after an identity thief has struck. Tax return identity theft occurs when someone uses a taxpayer’s personal information, such as name and Social Security number (SSN), without permission to commit fraud on tax returns to claim refunds or other credits to which a taxpayer is not entitled, or for other crimes.

Thieves normally file early in the tax-filing season, often before the IRS has received Forms W-2 or 1099, to thwart information matching and avoid receiving duplicate return notices from the IRS. Taxpayers sometimes discover they are victims of identity theft when they receive a notice from the IRS stating that “more than one tax return was filed with their information or that IRS records show wages from an employer the taxpayer has not worked for in the past” (FS-2012-7 (January 2012)).

In 2011, the IRS processed about 145 million returns. About 109 million were claims for refunds, with an average refund amount of almost $3,000. As of May 16, 2012, the IRS had pulled 2.6 million returns for possible identity theft, and that trend is on the increase. The IRS recently reported an inventory of more than 450,000 identity theft cases. For the 2011 filing season, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) estimated that identity-theft-related fraud accounted for approximately 1.5 million tax returns in excess of $5.2 billion.

 

CONSEQUENCES OF IDENTITY THEFT

Tax return identity theft delays legitimate taxpayer refunds because the return appears to be a duplicate return and may be a sign of other fraud or identity theft problems. IRS support to solve traditional and nonfraud problems may be delayed as well when IRS resources are diverted to combat identity theft. Other tax-related identity theft can cause problems for the taxpayer as well. If an individual fraudulently used a taxpayer’s SSN to get a job, the taxpayer may have extra W-2 wages erroneously reported (and perhaps also extra taxes withheld), leading to a correspondence matching audit. The National Taxpayer Advocate notes that time and money are spent to clear the individuals’ names, during which “victims may lose job opportunities, may be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn’t commit” (IRS Publication 4535, Identity Theft Prevention and Victim Assistance).

Further, until recently, the IRS would hold suspicious refunds while verifying the underlying W-2 information, for up to 11 weeks. With the increase in the number of cases and budget limitations, refunds may take longer. So, the IRS says, “[I]dentity theft can impose a significant burden on its victims, whose legitimate refund claims are blocked and who often must spend months or longer trying to convince the IRS that they are, in fact, victims and then working with the IRS to untangle their account problems” (IR-2012-66).

A typical identity theft starts when thieves have (illegally) bought or stolen information from individuals, employers, hospitals, or nursing homes or have used the public list of deaths with SSNs issued by the Social Security Administration. With a number or list of numbers, they file false tax returns for refunds. For example, investigators found a single address that was used to file 2,137 tax returns for $3.3 million in refunds (see TIGTA Rep’t No. 2012-42-80). Most thieves prefer to receive the refund using direct deposit or prepaid debit cards. In another example, 590 tax refunds totaling more than $900,000 were deposited into a single bank account. Although banks have strict rules to verify the identity of account holders, they don’t have the ability to monitor whether the direct deposit is for a legitimate refund.

Although the IRS planned to spend about $330 million in 2012 to combat identity theft, the IRS has limited resources and needs additional funding to combat this problem. Identity theft also happens to tax systems in other countries, but the extent of the problem is lessened in countries where the government can immediately (or in “real-time”) match income and withholding with the tax return. IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman called for real-time matching in his prepared remarks at the AICPA Fall 2011 National Tax Conference for the purpose of reducing the number of taxpayer audits, but such a system should help reduce identity theft fraudulent tax returns as well (IR-2011-108).

 

IDENTITY THEFT IN THE MAKING: HOW ID IS STOLEN

Common ways to obtain personal information include email or telephone phishing and Dumpster diving. Thieves are looking for “discarded tax returns, bank records, credit card receipts or other records containing personal and financial information” (FS-2008-9 (January 2008)). For example, some taxpayers receive email messages allegedly from the IRS advising them that they are under investigation or have a refund pending. To get the victim to respond, the email may threaten a dire consequence (see Exhibit 1 for a typical phishing message). Often, the recipient is asked to click on a link to access what appears to be—but is not—the legitimate IRS website.

The IRS does not send unsolicited, tax-account related emails to taxpayers and never asks for personal and financial information, including PINs and passwords, via email. The IRS advises that “[s]ince the IRS rarely contacts taxpayers via e-mail, and never about their tax accounts, taxpayers should be cautious about any e-mails that claim to come from the IRS” (FS-2008-9). (People receiving a suspicious email from the IRS are encouraged to report the email by calling the IRS at 800-829-1040 or forwarding the email to phishing irs; note in Exhibit 1 how the email uses “irs.org” not “irs.gov.”)

 

IDENTITY THEFT DETECTION: HOW IDENTITY THEFT IS CAUGHT

The IRS has several filters that address different issues. These filters are designed to distinguish legitimate returns from fraudulent ones and to prevent the recurrence of identity theft. If a tax return is caught by a filter, it is manually reviewed to validate the taxpayer’s identity. If the IRS identifies a suspicious return, it corresponds with the taxpayer to verify the correct information. Alternatively, if a second, unauthorized person is using the taxpayer’s SSN, the taxpayer may receive a correspondence audit notice informing the taxpayer that he or she failed to report income from another (erroneous) employer.

When a taxpayer’s identity has been stolen, the legitimate taxpayer may be issued a confidential identity protection PIN (IP PIN) that identifies the taxpayer as the legitimate party using the SSN and other identifying information. The IRS issues these numbers to taxpayers who have reported that their identities have been stolen, verified their identities, and had an identity theft indicator applied to their accounts. Not all victims of identity theft will receive an IP PIN—the IRS says that taxpayers who submitted Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, and proper documentation or taxpayers whom the IRS has itself identified as victims will receive them. During the 2012 filing season, the IRS issued 250,000 IP PINs, up from about 54,000 the year before. Once the IP PIN has been issued, it must be present and correct on the specific tax return for which it was issued. For the 2012 tax year, the six-digit IP PIN is inserted at the bottom of page 2 of Form 1040, to the right of the taxpayers’ signatures.

If two taxpayers are married filing jointly and each taxpayer receives an IP PIN, the couple should use the IP PIN of the SSN that appears first on the tax return. Tax preparation software is generally equipped to ask taxpayers if they received an IP PIN. If a taxpayer is filing a printed copy of the return, however, this number will not print, and should be handwritten in the space provided. A request for an extension or installment agreement using an IP PIN must be made on paper, but the tax return may still be filed electronically.

A new IP PIN is issued every subsequent year as long as the theft indicator remains on the legitimate taxpayer’s account. Returns with an IP PIN are processed more efficiently, in that they bypass the regular filtering system, and the IP PIN prevents fraudulent returns from being processed. The IRS began a pilot program in 2010 to mark the accounts of deceased taxpayers to prevent misuse by identity thieves.

 

IDENTITY THEFT CORRECTIVE ACTIONS: WHAT TO DO IF AN IDENTITY IS STOLEN

As trusted financial advisers, CPAs may be asked what to do if a client’s identity is stolen. The CPA should consider advising or helping the client with several steps:

1.For tax and nontax identity theft, report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338 or TTY 866-653-4261.

2.File a report with the local police.

3.Close any affected bank and credit card accounts.

4.Inform the credit bureaus and consider putting a credit freeze on the accounts. A credit freeze restricts access to credit reports, making it unlikely that thieves can open new accounts in the client’s name. Credit freeze laws vary from state to state.

5.If personal information is lost or stolen during the year, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, and complete Form 14039, if necessary. Expect to be patient, though. The National Taxpayer Advocate noted in her semiannual report that “this unit has been unable to answer about two out of every three calls it has received from taxpayers so far this year. At times during the filing season, it was answering only about one out of every nine calls it received—and those who managed to get through waited an average of over an hour to speak with an employee.”

6.Respond to all IRS notices immediately, using the name and number printed on the notice.

7.Tax preparers should ask their clients if they received an IP PIN.

 

IDENTITY THEFT PREVENTION TECHNIQUES

Since identity theft is so prevalent and growing, a CPA may consider providing general preventive advice through newsletters, websites, and other communications. This advice may include:

1.Have clients arrange for masked SSNs where possible, e.g., on insurance cards, so that client SSNs are closely protected and circulated as little as possible.

2.Watch credit reports from the three major credit bureaus; consider offering this as an off-season service or adding a timely reminder with contact information to the firm newsletter. (Contact details for the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus are: Equifax – 800-525-6285; Experian – 888-397-3742; and TransUnion – 800-680-7289.)

3.Advise clients to forward all information appearing to be from the IRS promptly and to not click on links or open attachments from emails claiming to be from the IRS.

4.Advise clients to safeguard their Social Security cards, store them in a safe and secure location, and not discard any documents with an SSN on them.

5.Advise clients to resist giving businesses an SSN or other personal information just because they ask for it; often it is not required, and dissemination of SSN information is risky.

6.Advise clients to protect financial information by investing in and using a shredder before discarding documents.

7.A taxpayer should secure personal information in one’s own home. For example, copies of tax returns can be kept in a locked file cabinet or safe.

8.Taxpayers should protect personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam or anti-virus software, updating security patches, and regularly changing passwords for internet accounts with sensitive information, such as online banking sites.

CPAs may be able to take additional preventive steps for tax returns, where the client is cooperative:

1.File clients’ returns early if possible.

2.E-file returns to be notified of duplicate return notices more quickly.

3.Consider truncating or masking SSNs on Forms 1098, 1099, and 5498 consistent with Notice 2011-38.

4.Communicate with the client to change client expectations: Refunds might take longer in future years as additional system security steps are taken.

5.Finally, CPAs with new online clients should be very careful to confirm the identity of those new clients, so that an identity thief cannot trade on an unwitting CPA’s credibility in filing false returns.

CPAs can find additional information at:

  • IRS website, and
  • IRS resources including the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft page, or the Identity Protection page.

Additional resources for business accounting tips are available here.

The Southbourne Tax Group: BBB Offers Tips on Filing Taxes, Avoiding Fraud

While all working citizens should have had their W-2 form delivered by now, it’s important for taxpayers to take time and use caution when selecting a tax preparer you can trust.

It’s important to avoid mistakes that could result in additional fees or even tax identity theft.

Unfortunately, identity theft is not the only thing to watch out for when enlisting the help of a tax preparer or tax software to file your taxes. BBB receives thousands of complaints from consumers against tax preparers every year.

In 2016, BBB received nearly 3,000 complaints against tax preparation businesses nationwide.

Common complaints state that the tax preparer made errors in their return which resulted in fines and fees. Other complaints allege customer service, billing and contract issues.

BBB offers the following advice when searching for a tax preparer:

* Look for credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney or an enrolled agent. All three can represent you before the IRS in all matters, including an audit.

* Don’t fall for the promise of a big refund. Be wary of any tax preparation service promising larger refunds than the competition. Avoid any tax preparer who bases their fee on a percentage of the refund.

* Think about accessibility. Many tax preparation services only set up shop for the months leading up to the April 15 deadline. In case the IRS finds errors, or in case of an audit, make sure you are able to contact you tax preparer at any time of the year.

* Read the contract carefully. Read tax preparation service contracts closely to ensure you understand issues such as how much it is going to cost for the service, how the cost will be affected if preparation is more complicated and time consuming than expected and whether the tax preparer will represent you in the case of an audit.

* Ask around. Ask family, friends or co-workers for recommendations on filing your taxes, whether it’s through a CPA, tax preparation business or online tax service that allows you to file your own taxes. To find a BBB Accredited tax preparation business near you, go to bbb.org.

Tax season is also a busy time for identity thieves. Tax identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund, or a job.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), tax identity thieves get your personal information in a number of ways, including: going through your trash or mailbox; through emails asking for information, which appear to come from the IRS; employees at hospitals, nursing homes, banks and other businesses stealing data; and phony or dishonest tax preparers misusing confidential information or passing it along to identity thieves.

To lessen the chances of becoming a victim of tax identity theft, the FTC has the following advice, whether you choose to file your return yourself or use a tax preparer:

* File your tax return early. And do it before identity thieves have a chance to steal your information. Also, make sure your address is up-to-date so your W-2 doesn’t get lost in the mail or end up in the wrong hands.

* Use a secure Internet connection. If you file your return electronically, don’t use unsecure, publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots.

* Shred documents. This includes copies of your tax return, drafts or calculation sheets you no longer need. The IRS recommends that most people keep three years’ worth of tax returns in case of an audit. Keep hard copies and electronic files in a secure location.

* Check your credit report. To ensure your identity hasn’t been stolen or compromised, go to annualcreditreport.com to get your free credit report.

The Southbourne Tax Group: Accounting For Half-Truths

A report by a brokerage on Satyam Computers gives an ‘accumulate’ rating, which means it expects the stock to go up. The rating is based on the company’s high cash/market cap ratio. The information technology company had reported a cash balance of Rs 4,500 crore at the end of the 2007-08 financial year. The report gives a one-year price target of Rs 373 for the stock. The stock closes at Rs 273 the day the report is written.

January 2009: The same brokerage releases a hurriedly-compiled report suspending the previous rating. “Low market cap, high cash status no longer holds,” it says. On 7 January 2009, the founder of Satyam Computers admits to inflating cash and bank balances by Rs 5,040 crore, overstating debtors’ position (money lent) of Rs 2,650 crore as against the actual figure of Rs 490 crore and non-disclosure or understatement of liabilities worth Rs 1,230 crore.

The Satyam accounting scam, one of the biggest in India, left millions of investors in the lurch, as the stock fell from Rs 179 to Rs 23 in one trading session.

The inability of stock analysts to identify the ‘gaps’ in Satyam’s books and ring warning bells proved costly for investors. Had investors known the basics of reading financial statements and techniques used by companies to report false numbers, they would have asked their advisors a few valid questions about Satyam’s finances.

Some would argue how lay investors could see red flags when experts failed to do so. It’s a valid argument, though we believe that with a little bit of learning you can see what professionals cannot.

We discuss a few common forms of accounting frauds companies indulge in and signs that may alert you to wrongdoing –

FINANCIAL REPORTS

A company’s financial health can be gauged through three statements – balance sheet, profit and loss account and cash flow accounts.

A balance sheet records a company’s assets (land, machinery, inventory, cash balance, investments, loans given), liabilities (loans taken, income tax payable, tax liabilities) and owner’s equity. It is generally prepared annually.

A profit and loss statement (or income statement) records a company’s earnings and expenses. Any company whose shares are traded on exchanges is required to release its income statement every quarter.

A cash flow statement tells us where cash is coming from (inflow) and how it is being used (outflow). There are three types of cash flow-operating cash flow (sale of goods, revenue from services, interest/dividend received, payment for purchases, payment for operating expenses), investing cash flow (sale and purchase of assets, sale and purchase of debt/equity, loans advanced to others) and financial cash flow (issue of equity shares, borrowing, repayment of debt).

Notes to accounts are important as they detail the accounting policies followed, pension and other post-employment benefits and potential liabilities/losses.

MANIPULATION OF STATEMENTS

There are many items in financial statements for which companies use different policies. These are inventory valuation, investments and fixed assets, conversion of foreign currency and asset depreciation.

Companies often manipulate these to inflate revenue, assets, cash inflow and understate expense, liabilities and cash outflow in financial statements.

INFLATING EARNINGS

1) Lending to customers: Sometimes companies lend money to customers to buy their goods. This way they can report high revenue in the income statement and high receivables (treated as an asset) in the balance sheet.

2) Trade stuffing: Companies use this usually just before the end of a reporting period. They ship goods to customers even though the latter may not need them immediately. This increases sales ahead of the reporting period.

3) Understating provisions: Companies often allow credit sales on generous terms, sometimes even to customers with a poor credit history. Ideally, in such sales, the company should set aside a higher amount for bad debt provisioning. This amount is recorded as a liability. Understating such liabilities is another way of ‘enhancing’ the financial statement.

4) Round-tripping: This means getting into fictitious transactions with related parties to inflate revenue. In round-tripping, a company sells unused assets to a party with the promise of buying back at a later date at the same price.

UNDERSTATING EXPENSES

1) Spreading out expenses:According to accounting norms, if an expense has been made for acquiring an asset whose benefits the company will avail of over a long term, the expense is to be reported in the books in a spread-out manner over that period. The process is called capitalising. Companies often use this to delay recognition of short-term expenses.

2) Cookie jar accounting: Companies put aside money for possible loan defaults. Some companies, during periods of high revenue growth, increase the amount and release the same during periods of poor revenue, offsetting the impact of low sales growth. Among other common forms of financial statement manipulation are revaluation of assets, showing unrealised gains as profits and assigning higher values to fixed assets.

3) Off-balance sheet items: Some assets/liabilities or financing activities are not fully recognised in the balance sheet due to the complexity of transactions involved. These include pension assets and liabilities, assets and liabilities of joint ventures and unconsolidated subsidiaries and lease arrangements. These are recorded in footnotes of financial statements.

Many companies resort to off-balance sheet financing by way of entering into joint ventures, research and development partnerships and lease contracts. Floating special purpose entities or subsidiaries to expand business is another off-balance sheet arrangement.

As the liabilities/risk involved in such transactions are not reflected in the balance sheet, one may draw wrong conclusions about a company’s financial health. It is, therefore, necessary to check the footnotes of financial statements.

RED FLAGS

Some manipulations we mentioned earlier are difficult to detect even for finance professionals. Here are some indicators of rot in a company’s financial books.

Continuous high level of cash, cash equivalents and current assets: Satyam Computers showed high cash balance over the years. Later it turned out it had inflated cash and bank balances by as much as Rs 5,040 crore.

Reported earnings consistently higher than cash flow: If cash flow from operating activities of a company is consistently less than the reported net income, it is a warning sign. The investor must ask why operating earnings are not turning into cash.

Sudden increase in inventory/sales ratio: This indicates the company may be inflating assets such as inventories.

Spurt in other income: Revenue sources recorded under other income are non-recurring and may include earnings from asset sales and closure of debt or debt restructuring. However, sources of earnings are seldom disclosed under this head. A sudden spurt should raise eyebrows.

Frequent changes in policies: Earnings and assets can be inflated by alternative accounting policies. If one sees frequent changes in these policies, there may be something fishy about the company’s books.

Financial ratios not in line with industry peers: This could be due to inflated earnings, asset valuation or understating of expenses and liabilities.

Too many off-balance sheet transactions: If a company has been expanding by creating special purpose entities and has entered into many lease contracts, it is possible a lot of liabilities are not reflected in its balance sheet.

We have seen in the past that many respected and renowned companies have been charged with manipulation of account books. Therefore, investors must stop treating financial statements issued by companies as gospel truth and scan them carefully to detect possible foul plays.

The Southbourne Tax Group: Six Strategies for Fraud Prevention in your Business

Employee fraud is a significant problem faced by organizations of all types, sizes, locations and industries. While we would all like to believe our employees are loyal and working for the benefit of the organization (and most of them probably are), there are still many reasons why your employees may commit fraud and several ways in which they might do it. According to the 2014 Report to the Nation on Occupational Fraud and Abuse (copyright 2014 by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, Inc.), research shows that the typical organization loses 5% of its annual revenue each year due to employee fraud. Prevention and detection are crucial to reducing this loss. Every organization should have a plan in place as preventing fraud is much easier than recovering your losses after a fraud has been committed.

Types of Fraud

Fraud comes in many forms but can be broken down into three categories: asset misappropriation, corruption and financial statement fraud. Asset misappropriation, although least costly, made up 90% of all fraud cases studied. These are schemes in which an employee steals or exploits its organization’s resources. Examples of asset misappropriation are stealing cash before or after it’s been recorded, making a fictitious expense reimbursement claim and/or stealing non-cash assets of the organization.

Financial statement fraud comprised less than five percent of cases but caused the most median loss. These are schemes that involve omitting or intentionally misstating information in the company’s financial reports. This can be in the form of fictitious revenues, hidden liabilities or inflated assets.

Corruption fell in the middle and made up less than one-third of cases. Corruption schemes happen when employees use their influence in business transactions for their own benefit while violating their duty to the employer. Examples of corruption are bribery, extortion and conflict of interest.

Fraud Prevention

It is vital to an organization, large or small, to have a fraud prevention plan in place. The fraud cases studied in the ACFE 2014 Report revealed that the fraudulent activities studied lasted an average of 18 months before being detected. Imagine the type of loss your company could suffer with an employee committing fraud for a year and a half. Luckily, there are ways you can minimize fraud occurrences by implementing different procedures and controls.

1.Know Your Employees

Fraud perpetrators often display behavioral traits that can indicate the intention to commit fraud. Observing and listening to employees can help you identify potential fraud risk. It is important for management to be involved with their employees and take time to get to know them. Often, an attitude change can clue you in to a risk. This can also reveal internal issues that need to be addressed. For example, if an employee feels a lack of appreciation from the business owner or anger at their boss, this could lead him or her to commit fraud as a way of revenge. Any attitude change should cause you to pay close attention to that employee. This may not only minimize a loss from fraud, but can make the organization a better, more efficient place with happier employees. Listening to employees may also reveal other clues. Consider an employee who has worked for your company for 15 years that is now working 65 hours a week instead of 40 because two co-workers were laid off. A discussion with the employee reveals that in addition to his new, heavier workload, his brother lost his job and his family has moved into the employee’s house. This could be a signal of a potential fraud risk. Very often and unfortunately, it’s the employee you least expect that commits the crime. It is imperative to know your employees and engage them in conversation.

2.Make Employees Aware/Set Up Reporting System

Awareness affects all employees. Everyone within the organization should be aware of the fraud risk policy including types of fraud and the consequences associated with them. Those who are planning to commit fraud will know that management is watching and will hopefully be deterred by this. Honest employees who are not tempted to commit fraud will also be made aware of possible signs of fraud or theft. These employees are assets in the fight against fraud. According to the ACFE 2014 Report, most occupational fraud (over 40%) is detected because of a tip. While most tips come from employees of the organization, other important sources of tips are customers, vendors, competitors and acquaintances of the fraudster. Since many employees are hesitant to report incidents to their employers, consider setting up an anonymous reporting system. Employees can report fraudulent activity through a website keeping their identity safe or by using a tip hotline.

3.Implement Internal Controls

Internal controls are the plans and/or programs implemented to safeguard your company’s assets, ensure the integrity of its accounting records, and deter and detect fraud and theft. Segregation of duties is an important component of internal control that can reduce the risk of fraud from occurring. For example, a retail store has one cash register employee, one salesperson, and one manager. The cash and check register receipts should be tallied by one employee while another prepares the deposit slip and the third brings the deposit to the bank. This can help reveal any discrepancies in the collections.

Documentation is another internal control that can help reduce fraud. Consider the example above; if sales receipts and preparation of the bank deposit are documented in the books, the business owner can look at the documentation daily or weekly to verify that the receipts were deposited into the bank. In addition, make sure all checks, purchase orders and invoices are numbered consecutively. Use “for deposit only” stamps on all incoming checks, require two signatures on checks above a specified dollar amount and avoid using a signature stamp. Also, be alert to new vendors as billing-scheme embezzlers setup and make payments to fictitious vendors, usually mailed to a P.O. Box.

Internal control programs should be monitored and revised on a consistent basis to ensure they are effective and current with technological and other advances. If you do not have an internal control process or fraud prevention program in place, then you should hire a professional with experience in this area. An expert will analyze the company’s policies and procedures, recommend appropriate programs and assist with implementation.

4.Monitor Vacation Balances

You might be impressed by the employees who haven’t missed a day of work in years. While these may sound like loyal employees, it could be a sign that these employees have something to hide and are worried that someone will detect their fraud if they were out of the office for a period of time. It is also a good idea to rotate employees to various jobs within a company. This may also reveal fraudulent activity as it allows a second employee to review the activities of the first.

5.Hire Experts

Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE),Certified Public Accountants (CPA) and CPAs who are Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) can help you in establishing antifraud policies and procedures. These professionals can provide a wide range of services from complete internal control audits and forensic analysis to general and basic consultations.

6.Live the Corporate Culture

A positive work environment can prevent employee fraud and theft. There should be a clear organizational structure, written policies and procedures and fair employment practices. An open-door policy can also provide a great fraud prevention system as it gives employees open lines of communication with management. Business owners and senior management should lead by example and hold every employee accountable for their actions, regardless of position.

Fraud Detection

In addition to prevention strategies, you should also have detection methods in place and make them visible to the employees. According to Managing the Business Risk of Fraud: A Practical Guide, published by Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), the visibility of these controls acts as one of the best deterrents to fraudulent behavior. It is important to continuously monitor and update your fraud detection strategies to ensure they are effective. Detection plans usually occur during the regularly scheduled business day. These plans take external information into consideration to link with internal data. The results of your fraud detection plans should enhance your prevention controls. It is important to document your fraud detection strategies including the individuals or teams responsible for each task. Once the final fraud detection plan has been finalized, all employees should be made aware of the plan and how it will be implemented. Communicating this to employees is a prevention method in itself. Knowing the company is watching and will take disciplinary action can hinder employees’ plans to commit fraud.

Conclusion

Those who are willing to commit fraud do not discriminate. It can happen in large or small companies across various industries and geographic locations. Occupational fraud can result in huge financial loss, legal costs, and ruined reputations that can ultimately lead to the downfall of an organization. Having the proper plans in place can significantly reduce fraudulent activities from occurring or cut losses if a fraud already occurred. Making the company policy known to employees is one of the best ways to deter fraudulent behavior. Following through with the policy and enforcing the noted steps and consequences when someone is caught is crucial to preventing fraud. The cost of trying to prevent fraud is less expensive to a business than the cost of the fraud that gets committed.

The Southbourne Tax Group: About Us

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We take this opportunity to get to know our staff as well as our company’s values even prior to meeting us. The following pages will provide an overview of what we are all about. Have a great time reading!

Our Values

The Southbourne Tax Group offers excellent service to our customers because of our commitment to the three principal pillars of professionalism, responsiveness and quality.

Professionalism

Our group is considered one of the foremost companies in the locality. By integrating our experiences, expertise and the creative abilities of our staff, each customer benefits from the professional and personal attention they provide.

Our company’s excellent standards, service and specialist staff will make the difference between our unparalleled performance and that of other companies. We assure every customer of being provided the expert service of our entire company.

Responsiveness

Responsiveness is a trademark of our company. Businesses who come to us for their needs depend on expert advice and prompt, accurate care from our staff. We offer comprehensive financial counseling and assistance to every individual, small or large enterprises and other entities.

To browse a selection of the services we provide, kindly take the time to visit our services page. Since we derive new business from those who have availed of our service, customer referrals have enhanced our progress as a firm in the past several years.

Through diligent work, we have gained the respect of the financial and business sectors. This respect showcases our various capabilities, our commitment and our readiness to respond at the fastest possible time.

Quality

A company engaged in accounting is measured by its quality of service. The Southbourne Tax Group’s reputation exhibits the high levels of standards we expect of ourselves.

Our main objective as a reliable counselor is to be always ready to deliver beneficial advice to allow our customers to confidently generate educated financial decisions. We do not shortchange ourselves or our customers by promising and providing anything less than that.

We believe it is of utmost importance to improve our professional know-how and capability in order to enhance our technical readiness to provide financial information and assistance to our customers.

Our top-quality service and “raving fan” customers arose from our perseverance to achieve excellence.

We commit to provide you with solutions to all of your issues, as to how they affect both your financial and tax status. Feel free to call us for any need.

GET IN TOUCH

Email

For inquiries please send us your email.

enquiry@thesouthbournegroup.com

Address

West Kowloon, 1 Austin Road, 82/F, International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong

The Southbourne Tax Group

We provide a wide selection of small enterprise accounting services, including tax services for businesses and individuals.

WHAT WE DO?

Who We Are?

We take this opportunity to get to know our staff as well as our company’s values even prior to meeting us. The following pages will provide an overview of what we are all about. Have a great time reading!

Employment

The Southbourne Tax Group, invites diligent, professional accounting & tax experts with a minimum of four years of experience, including knowledgeable administrative managers with at least three years of experience.

Services

As an owner of a small business, have many other valuable needs other than maintaining your accounting books. Our firm takes care of your bookkeeping to allow you to focus on running your company and producing income.

Welcome to The Southbourne Tax Group

The Southbourne Tax Group is a complete-package Accounting & Tax company. We provide a wide selection of small enterprise accounting services, including tax services for businesses and individuals. Our services also include outsourced CFO support, bookkeeping support, local and remote service, payroll processing, QuickBooks support and many more! Our rates are reasonable and you get friendly service from our professional staff.